What is online education like?

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Student working on a laptop

A master’s degree is one way for professional counselors to sharpen their skills and build knowledge. A graduate education can help students gain more experience, deeper insight into current trends and advanced techniques to use in client interactions. The demands of an on-campus degree, however, can complicate the situation for many. Counselors already in the field who want to return to school to advance their careers, but can’t or don’t want to leave practice, are especially affected.

For those prospective students, online education could make the most sense. Taking classes over the internet allows students to complete studies when work and personal life allow. Besides the schedule flexibility, earning an online degree can provide many other advantages to students and be a rewarding experience.

Yet students must become familiar with what online education entails, and how they can identify the best online courses to take. Differences in programs may exist, so it’s important that prospective students find the best online education for them. Bradley University strives to help facilitate this by offering its Master of Arts in Counseling degree online and helping students understand the specifics about online education and what expectations they should have.

Synchronous or asynchronous

Students generally understand online education as learning whenever they have time, which is true in most cases. However, online programs are offered both synchronously or asynchronously, and determining which format a target school uses is crucial to finding the best online education, as there is a huge difference between the two.

When students picture the anytime, anywhere nature of online learning, they’re thinking of an asynchronous program. This refers to coursework that can be accessed and completed by students on their own time and at their own pace. However, overarching deadlines to complete that work may exist. Class materials are made available through different platforms or software, and students can guide themselves through modules, lessons, forum discussions and other critical tasks. This is the typical framework preferred by students pursuing an online graduate education, as the main advantages are flexibility and autonomy.

Conversely, a synchronous program includes completing coursework online, but at set times and dates. The same requirements extend to lessons and other activities that may call for live student participation. The coursework progresses at a controlled pace in a synchronous program and attendance is a major factor to consider. This method of online education can provide some benefits, like increased interaction, but the time constraints can be difficult.

It’s important to note that programs can contain both synchronous and asynchronous elements. Researching how a school approaches more physical-related aspects of graduate learning (like internships, practicums and residencies) will help students find the best online education for them.

Learning outcomes

A common misconception is that an online education is somehow less rigorous or valuable than an on-campus degree. This may make interested counselors hesitate to enroll in an online program. The reality is online programs that align learning outcomes and expectations with on-campus alternatives ensure that students receive the highest quality education possible. There can be disparities between institutions, however, which makes it essential that students research schools and compare respective programs. Ideally, there should be no divergence between an on-campus and online program, except one is completed while physically attending school and the other allows counselors to do the same from a laptop.

But how can students guarantee that learning outcomes are uniform across formats? Accreditation is a clear sign that any online program can be vouched for in terms of quality and experience. Bradley University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and its online Master of Arts in Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Another key way for students to select the ideal program is to examine curricula. The best online education courses will feature subject matter that is complex, advanced, diverse and in-depth, but also concentrated on the concepts most important to cultivating growth as a professional counselor.

Dynamic experience

Another misconception is that online education is rather static and not as engaging as an on-campus program. On the contrary, the best online courses provide an immersive experience that includes the same kind of collaboration and interaction they would expect from attending class in-person. While students may not follow along with instructors in a live stream, faculty is just as readily accessible for questions, assistance or a conversation. Students can also work with and connect to peers online, forming relationships as they would in the classroom.

Curriculum features like practicums and internships also give students experiential learning through an online format that allows them to apply their studies in a real-world setting. Such opportunities are valuable and ensure that students benefit from the best online education.

Get your online degree from Bradley

The online Master of Arts in Counseling at Bradley is designed to give students all the advantages of an online education and more. The program is offered completely online and can be completed at a student’s own pace. The two degree tracks, clinical mental health counseling and professional school counseling, allow students to specialize in their interests and learn from focused coursework that introduces them to advanced theories, techniques, interventions and practices. Bradley adds to this experience by including courses on neurocounseling that expose students to innovative and cutting-edge learning.

The online MAC program further tries to facilitate the best online education by allowing students to select their own approved site supervisors for practicums and internships. A graduate education from Bradley enables students to grow both personally and professionally through a rich and rewarding online education experience. Contact an enrollment advisor today for more information about the online MAC program.

Recommended Reading:

Online or on-campus: Which program is right for you?

Five reasons to pursue a master’s degree in counseling online


Bradley University

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